Returning to work after retirement: Who, what and why?

Bridge employment is increasingly common in the Netherlands. One third of retired employees re-enter the labour market after retirement. Bridge employment may be a forceful instrument in postponing the age at which workers finally leave the labour market. The key to capitalizing on this resource is to understand older worker’s work-retirement decisions. The purpose of the current paper has been to examine the prevalence of paid work after retirement in the Netherlands, and to determine what factors contribute to the propensity to engage in paid work after (early) retirement among older adults in the Netherlands. Panel data on Dutch older adults (2001-2011; N= 1,304) were investigated using multivariate logistic regression models. The results demonstrate that approximately 30 percent of the Dutch retirees participate in paid work after retirement. Males, persons with higher education, in good health, with a low replacement rate, and with higher work role centrality are more likely to re-enter the labor force after retirement. In addition, the behavior and attitudes of the partner seem to matter in post-retirement work decisions. Older workers were more inclined to re-enter the labor force whenever their partner was still active in the labor force as well, and in cases where the partner did not support (early) retirement. Motives for bridge employment are mainly intrinsic: retirees like to work. Only a small minority took up bridge employment mainly for financial reasons. Forty per cent of bridge employees changed sector, and a majority earn an hourly wage below that received in their career job. Bridge employment is therefore de facto a demotion, a career step that is still considered a taboo but which apparently is not felt to be a problem in practice as long as it is voluntary.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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